Contemporary Aesthetics (forthcoming)

Robert Sinnerbrink
Macquarie University
Some of the most innovative philosophical engagement with cinema and ethics in recent years has come from phenomenological and cognitivist perspectives. This trend reflects a welcome re-engagement with cinema as a medium with the potential for ethical transformation, that is, with the idea of cinema as a medium of ethical experience. This paper explores the phenomenological turn in film theory, emphasizing the ethical implications of phenomenological approaches to affect and empathy, emotion, and evaluation. I argue that the oft-criticized subjectivism of phenomenological theories can be supplemented by cognitivist approaches that highlight the complex forms of affective response, emotional engagement, and moral allegiance at work in our experience of movies. An empathic ethics or “cinempathy” is at work in many films, I suggest, such as Ashgar Farhadi’s A Separation, which offers a striking case study in cinematic ethics.
Keywords cinematic ethics   emotion   empathy   ethics   film aesthetics   film philosophy
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